Post-retirement stress disorder: how to avoid it and live a rich life

retirement, post-retirement, stress

Post-retirement stress disorder: how to avoid it and live a rich life

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4 minute read

The dream of a happy retirement can turn into a living nightmare without great preparation. A plan is key for every great post-retirement adventure.

A point to consider when retiring is: Are you running away from something you dislike, have you been abandoned, or are you running towards your new life?

It doesn’t matter if you have recently retired, are facing retirement sometime soon, or are young enough not to imagine it, your final workday will eventually arrive. Retirement means different things to different people depending on your perspective. This blog looks at the emotional side of retirement.

Running away

If you’re in this camp, then you’re not alone. Based on decades of experience, most people with high-pressure careers view retirement as an escape.

Retirement can be a huge relief and a release from four decades of toil. A career you couldn’t wait to quit. It could be boring, long hours, or a Groundhog Day life. Perhaps corporate life is causing your social life and family time to be compromised. For some it is colleagues they want to avoid. Or maybe a long commute despised for years.

"Dad worked in the same shop, behind the same counter, five or six days a week, for 38 years, and hated it"

David Thewlis. Actor and author.


For others it is the end of a form of validation, consigned to the scrap heap. They were their ‘job’. A CEO or managing director, a surgeon, an army officer, or an entrepreneur. Not so much set free as excluded and abandoned. By removing the role and the ‘uniform’ there might be little left inside.

Whatever the thought process, leaving the world of work behind is a life-changing process which can cause people a certain amount of dread, mainly fear of the unknown. There is little or no training or preparation for it. Boom! Out into the great unknown, which may last for a third of your life.

Running towards

Other people see it as a new adventure. Exhilarated to be free to do what they want, when they want. The end of having to squeeze holidays and social time into weekends and your 25 days holiday entitlement plus a few bank holiday weekends. They can turn the alarm clock off, miss the rush-hour gridlock and the packed commute. Plus, they are free to wear whatever they want.

Swapping back-to-back meetings for focusing on all the things you love doing. A life full of opportunity, with days to fill with fun, friends, and adventure. Your passion lit up, the freedom to learn and expand. A time to polish your language skills to explore new continents.

The skill that these people have is to look forward optimistically and not remain stuck in the past.

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past"

Thomas Jefferson

The key post-retirement stress disorders

Here are some of the common fears of retirement for successful people;

  • Running out of money before running out of breath
  • Getting (expensively) ill
  • Lacking a sense of ‘self’ and identity
  • Not being able to financially help your immediate family
  • Having a much lower (and obvious) standard of living
  • Not having enough to do all day
  • Being lonely
  • Losing your independence
  • Living on a fixed income which loses value after inflation
  • Fear of the unknown

Simply writing down your own post-retirement concerns is a great start. Avoiding and deferring them until later is a sure way of it all getting worse.

The glide path and preparing to land

At some point in your life the ‘seatbelts on’ light will come on as the descent to the airport starts. It’s not ideal for a great retirement if when you step onto the tarmac you have no idea where you are, and you haven’t packed the correct clothing or currency.

That’s retirement for many people: “If I keep my eyes shut, so long as this plane is still flying, I don’t have to make any decisions.” But who likes turbulence at 30,000 feet?

The planning and preparation needs to begin at maximum altitude. Build your network on LinkedIn, meet influential people for coffee or lunch. Share stories and contacts. Put out your feelers now, before it is too late. If you have a job and a title, then people will be open and receptive. Once you become a “I used to be a (fill in your blank)” then the moment has gone for good.

As we say at Capital to retirees “This is the first time you have retired and it’s all new and strange to you. Don’t worry though, because we have retired hundreds of people just like you.” There’s nothing quite like a soft and safe landing.

Getting help

Some important things in life are too difficult to do alone, so getting help makes sense. There are two aspects to retirement: the emotional and the financial.

Without financial foundations your emotional wellbeing will be at constant risk. Preparing your finances for retirement is essential. To learn more about this read our blog Great ways to calculate when you can afford to retire.

On the emotional level it helps if you are happy and at peace with who you are. If you are in a relationship, share your innermost hopes, dreams and fears before embarking on your next chapter.

Don’t forget the funny side. Two friends are chatting over coffee – “So Fiona, how is Jim’s retirement going?” “Well Sally, I’ve got half the house and twice the husband.” Two worlds can collide, so it’s best to be prepared.

What’s your emotional relationship with money? Are you financially independent, or are budgets a struggle?

Don’t overlook the sense of facing 12 empty hours each and every day. Unless you are emotionally strong and ready for the change, it could become a struggle to fill time productively.

Many people suffer emotionally by not having a sense of purpose, fulfilment or meaning. You may need help to identify and find yours, but it will be time well spent.

Both sides of the coin – emotional and financial wellbeing.

In conclusion

Getting ready for retirement, or ‘phase 2’ of your adult life, is about as important as actually retiring. Thinking, planning, preparing, testing, and validating are all key aspects towards a great outcome.

Partner and work alongside a chartered financial planner who can keep you on track and act as a sounding board. It could be the best 30-year investment you will make.

“I have yet to meet a retired traveller who wishes he or she had delayed quitting work a few more years before embarking on adventures or beginning to fulfil dreams. To the contrary, in most cases, once they started retirement, any fears of running out of financial resources have transformed into fears of running out of time.” Jonathan Look, travel blog

At Capital we are here to support you and help remove any post-retirement stress disorders before they happen. If you would like to speak to one of our experienced Chartered financial planners about planning for post-retirement then please click here to contact us. 

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